THE BANCROFT LIBRARY is the primary special collections library at the University of California, Berkeley. One of the largest and most heavily used libraries of manuscripts, rare books, and unique materials in the United States, Bancroft supports major research and instructional activities and plays a leading role in the development of the University's research collections. Bancroft's holdings include more than 500,000 volumes, 50,000,000 manuscript items (some 35,000 linear feet), 2,800,000 photographs and other pictorial materials, 43,000 microforms, and 23,000 maps.

The Bancroft Collection, the Library's largest subject collection, documents the history of North America from the western plains states to the Pacific coast and from Panama to Alaska, with greatest emphasis on California and Mexico from the late eighteenth century onward. The collection documents, through primary and secondary resources in a variety of formats, the political, economic, social and cultural history of this vast region. Some of the topical strengths include materials relating to Spanish/Mexican California, the California Gold Rush and the settlement that followed, urban and rural development, particularly in northern California, the environmental movement in the American West, and local, state, and national political figures.

The Bancroft Collection documents the nineteenth and early twentieth century Chinese immigration to California and the West. Included in the collection is much that reflects the social life, culture, and commerce of these immigrants. The primary source materials include photographs, original art, cartoons, and other illustrations; letters, diaries, business records, and legal documents; as well as pamphlets, broadsides, speeches, sheet music, and other printed matter.

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